Business in Asia: Basic Guidelines For Success


Asia is, by far, the biggest and most populated continent on the planet. Understanding how to do business, and how to be successful in Asia, deserves much more intuition and preparation than in any other territory in the world.

This highly populated giant provides great challenges to the western-minded entrepreneur. Observation, patience, and respect will timely provide the answers to these challenges, revealing a world of opportunities for the well informed, smart companies and businesspeople who want to expand to Asia.

Do you have to visit Asia to do business on this continent?

The answer is no. However, although it is not needed, it will greatly change your perception of the continent. It will also show you exactly what you have to do, where you should start and will broaden your expectations.

Moreover, if you come to visit your potential distributors, you will show them that you care for their business enough to take 3 flights across the world. You will gain their trust more easily and will take the first step to success in Asia.

From this standpoint, we will briefly address some of the basic qualities you must have in order to properly start, and keep businesses, in this diverse and fast-paced environment. 

Putting these into practice, in addition to those skills that are highly valued in your own industry, you will ease the path to success in Asia. 

Be Eager to Learn the “Asian Way”

Learning Asian culture

Undoubtedly, being open to suggestions, recommendations, and ideas is fundamental. It does not matter how these ideas contradict your knowledge in the business.

Both Asians and Asian companies are completely different than their western counterparties. Keeping open arms to suggestions will save you thousands of dollars and a few misunderstandings while opening a company or investing.

In addition, most Asians appreciate a good listener. Making your colleagues or counterparties feel that their opinions are highly valued and respected will facilitate negotiations.

 Connections, Connections, Connections

Keep that business card. Vigorously shake that hand and make the proper reverence when needed. While everybody knows the importance of contacts in the western world, in Asia, connections will truly take you anywhere.

By the above, we are not talking about the right people, exclusively. Any person may have a cousin, college friend or former associate in key government positions, or company structures.

Make sure to be respectful, easy going and easy to remember. As you are playing on a visitor field, keep in mind that you will need every bit of help you can get.


Respect in Asia

Dozens of cultures, and thousands of years separate communities in the Asian continent. Countries are not alike. Coming to Asia with the misconception of treating it a sole region will surely bring failure to your business.

It is important to realize that, although Asians may share similar physical characteristics, there are not two countries alike. Even regions within the same country may have different traditions. Take enough time to observe, listen and realize the difference between cultures, as this is not only enriching, but it is also good for business.

The above also refers to customs, clothing, language, and food. As honor, loyalty and respect, play a key role in Asia, respecting every culture will make you a more reliable businessperson. 


Loyalty in Asia

A very uncommon characteristic in the business world these days, loyalty is very important in Asia. You must not forget those who were around you, hand in hand when business was 99% work and 1% revenue. 

Being loyal will give you deadline extensions, loans, faster product delivery among many advantages over the competition. You must be willing to do the same. You must trust those who have been loyal to you in return, as loyalty is indeed, a two-way street.

It also suggests that one must not change distributors or providers for pennies on the dollar. Business structures in Asia rely often more on relationships than on small monetary differences. Instead of running into the next, cheaper provider, discuss these monetary differences with your long-trusted business associate. 

You will be very surprised at how much Asians are willing to compromise in terms of money when you value relationships over money.

Understand the Asian Timeframes

Asians, without trying to put every country in the same bag, have very different times than those in the western world. Negotiations may take weeks or even months, in addition to some visits to their countries, in order to properly start a business relationship. 

Then, all of the sudden, production starts, on a Sunday afternoon, and your product is completed and ready to be delivered in 36 hours. They often take a very long time to negotiate and to know counterparties and are incredibly efficient in production terms.

Keep in mind that every week you spend on negotiation, will be compensated with state of the art logistics and production times. That being said, you will compensate the time invested in negotiation. 

As Asians value honor and trust, they like to really know you and your business. As loyalty is also important, they want to know the people with whom they will establish decades-long business relationships. Embracing these long times will definitely bring profits and very smooth business negotiations.

After that, you will become reliable and might take advantage of the rapidly evolving market and opportunities of the Asian region. Negotiations happen once, but the timeframes for opportunities are very narrow and short-timed. 

Surround Yourself with the Best

Spend enough time and money, in finding key individuals to help you properly conduct your business. An expert in every needed field might sound costly, but it will be nothing compared to the provided advisory and the experience they will put into your business. 

Also, keep in mind that, when you compensate accordingly, your employees will fight for your company with all their hearts. This level of commitment is rarely seen in the western world. When you respect your employees and pay good salaries, you will have an army of experts, who will never leave your company, unless you fire them.

They will prevent expensive mistakes, go the extra mile and will care for the company as if were their own. Also, your employees are experienced in acknowledging the differences in both cultures and markets in Asia. This understanding will take years for you to realize and will help you improve your chances of success.


Being able to experience the Asian culture and its differences will increase your understanding of this commercial giant. Also, being able to understand, respect and not to impose your way of doing business will take you anywhere.

As Asia is constantly evolving, while keeping their traditions, western businesses and individuals are forced to realize and follow guidelines, completely unknown to them. Being patient, respectful and loyal are the key to success.

In addition, cultural awareness is very important. Chinese and Japanese cultures are completely different. Same applies to Malaysia and Singapore among many more.

Keep in mind that you are a visitor, and although bringing employment and development, you are still on their field. Also, keep in mind that respect also applies to salaries. As in any other region in the world, good salaries mean happier loyal employees. 

Embrace, respect and enjoy these differences, as there are a million things to be discovered while conducting business in this incredible continent.


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As a specialist in the area of overseas business expansion, Alan covers global business topics with a focus on identifying emerging markets and helping companies expand globally.

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